Maybe you have noticed. People are throwing around the words, Diversity and Inclusion, like they are baseballs or boomerangs that can ricochet throughout our society and world to make rapid or lasting change. Well, in a certain sense this may be true. As a writer, artist, poet, singer, psychotherapist and cultural diversity consultant with a deep and abiding commitment to healing racism and ending all social oppression, I have been using words to create a more just and harmonious world for the last 30 years.
While the right words are only part of the solution, I believe they can go a long way. I am a strong believer in the premise that utilizing the right words can help to create the right society, one that works for all. For example, words can make peace or war. Saying “I love you” and “I respect you” can bring about warmth, love, understanding, openness and caring between two or more human beings. Lesser words, however, chosen in haste or poor judgment, can lead to ruptures, conflicts, harm, and damaged relations. Some words can be used to alleviate pain and heal our wounds. Other words may be designed to hide the Truth and are intended to deceive. Silence or the omission of appropriate words at the appropriate moment may convey a conscious choice to deny the other and the reality of that person’s or group’s experience of oppression and hurt. Lies are yet another form of words related to deceit and the denial of one’s own experience of oppression. The outcome of lying almost always leads to hurt for the one being lied to, and also leaves a wound on the soul of the liar. However, when the Truth is spoken, it resonates with most of us, and it can be very powerful in elevating us all for the highest good of the universe.
The truth is that we all need help. All of us have had the experience of being hurt by certain words, and all of us have also had the experience of being helped by the right words and at the right time also. We can all learn to be better communicators, elevating our language as we elevate our hopes for the healing of world.
Words may hopefully help us develop a more moral and ethical milieu. Choosing words and using words that make us think differently, feel differently and act differently can lead to the creation of a more just and inclusive world. Words that help us feel better about ourselves and do better with others can certainly be of social support in helping us make the changes we require and which we all seek to create. For example, upon hearing a contractor at a community meeting state, “We will be building ramps and creating curb cuts for people with disabilities throughout the entire neighborhood…” we feel a sense of promise. And when we see these new community improvements, we feel even better! When an employer states, “We will start to hire more Black and Brown people to our workforce, run diversity trainings for all of our current employees to aid in employee retention, and diversify our products to make them more relevant to all kinds of people…” we also feel hope. When we see these changes come to fruition, we feel even better!
About the Inclusion of Culturally Diverse Voices…
Culturally diverse implies you and me. Yes. Everyone can be diverse and diversity applies to everyone. When job recruiters use the term diverse to refer to People of Color alone, they are making a huge mistake. Why? It is because within this word usage is the omission of People of Color from the norm. It implies that People of Color are somehow diverse while the rest of the people, namely the White folks, are not. In reality, White folks, or members of the European heritage group, MUST also begin to see ourselves as diverse in order to disrupt, interrupt and dismantle racism. White folks have lots of diversity amongst ourselves, just as Black folks do, and People of Color, and all people for that matter. To use the word diverse to single out People of Color does a tremendous disservice to People of Color and to us all. It denies the ability of White folks to see ourselves as different from each other, which would help us break out further from our groupthink (i.e. racist) mentality. And it means that being a Person of Color cannot be the norm.
I am not suggesting in any way that jobs should not be given to People of Color, God forbid. In fact, I am suggesting that they should. All I am saying is that if you are attempting (as you should) to culturally diversify your homogenous, White workplace, state that you are seeking People of Color as applicants rather than just diverse applicants because White folks are also diverse, as I have just explained.
It is also really important to state the following…
White voices have been the norm for centuries while, generally speaking, the voices of people of other cultures, and namely races, have been excluded from being heard within the social institutions and media we all share. In government, academia, television, radio, advertising, entertainment, housing, employment, ownership of land and other assets, the judicial or legal system, education, the environment and in every other social institution, People of Color have been forced to take a back seat, while White people have been front and center.
Of course, things have been changing and there is more equity, thank God. And that is what I would like to point out…
It is not only our words that make change. It is when our words lead to new thoughts, feelings and behaviors in the world, translating our ideas into action, that social change can really and will truly come about. Words are the beginning. Remember the Christian scripture? It says, “In the beginning, was the Word…” And interestingly, the Jewish scripture also starts with these words, “In the beginning…” The first line of The Torah says, “In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth.” Therefore, it is with our words that we may work toward the creation of a world that is suitable for everyone. We can create safe space to worship together, to be together, to play together, to work together. When Christians and Jews join forces, along with people of every faith tradition and also those who are spiritual, who do not practice in one tradition or another, we may know the truth that all are created equal and we all have our part to play in the healing of the world, to bring about the changes we see need to be made and which we may create together.
Unity Theater™ is the vehicle that will aid us in the creation of this just, inclusive, new world. In this interactive, participatory and also theatrical performance, the audience is involved. Why? In order to create a world that works for everyone, first we must gage how everyone feels, what everyone needs, what everyone wants, and what everyone is willing to do to help to make the world a better place. We must allow for a human dialogue forum that is diverse and inclusive, in which the audience’s ideas are elicited by trained facilitators. These ideas are recorded, and participants can commit to working together on the social issues they raise, to make sought-after social improvements.